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2009 Ford Explorer Review

While other used SUVs may be more refined, the 2009 Ford Explorer is a solid performer, with straightforward styling and a comfortable interior. Most test drivers said the Explorer rides better and is much quieter inside than competitors, though it guzzles fuel.

Pros & Cons

  • Quiet cabin
  • Good road manners for a big, truck-based SUV
  • Capable SUV for towing and off-roading
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Some cheap-feeling interior materials




Critics' Rating: 8.1
Performance: 7.8
Interior: 8.0
Total Cost of Ownership: 8.9
Safety: 8.8
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2009 Ford Explorer Overview

Reviewers agreed that if you need a traditional, truck-based SUV for hauling, towing or off-roading, you’ll likely be happy with the 2009 Explorer. After all, it’s the vehicle that touched off the SUV craze in the 1990s. The Explorer is capable off-road, comfortable on-road and has a well-made interior. Reviewers noted that the Explorer is by no means fun to drive, but its all-weather abilities and towing capacity, combined with its smooth ride on the pavement, make the Explorer a good compromise between solid off-roader and suburban family hauler. Some rival 2009 midsize SUVs offer better safety scores.

Most reviewer complaints centered on the fact that the Explorer is a truck-based SUV rather than a crossover. Many families bought the Explorer because they wanted a three-row SUV with four- or all-wheel drive, but by 2009, those tasks were being accomplished by car-based crossovers that offer better fuel economy, easier maneuverability and roomier interiors. The Explorer’s cargo capacity is about average for its segment, but test drivers noted that its cabin is particularly well-made. Base trims come standard with a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and speed-sensitive intermittent windshield wipers, while higher trims offer leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power-folding third row and dual-zone automatic climate control. If you don’t need the Explorer’s truck-like capabilities, you’ll probably be much happier with a crossover.

See the full 2009 Ford Explorer specs »

Other Cars to Consider

Shoppers who need even more seatbelts should take a look at the 2009 GMC Acadia. The Acadia can seat up to eight people and gets better fuel economy than the Explorer thanks to its car-based platform. It can’t tow like V8-powered Explorer models or carelessly plow through muddy fields. However, the Acadia offers significantly better safety scores and outstanding cargo space for the class. Additionally, reviewers said that the Acadia’s standard third row is actually adult-sized, and the Acadia is much more maneuverable than the Explorer.

Shoppers who want great fuel economy in their three-row SUV should consider the 2009 Toyota Highlander with the base four-cylinder engine. The Highlander’s basic-yet-versatile interior echoes the Explorer’s. Like the Acadia, the Highlander’s car-based architecture keeps it from taking on bumpy trails or towing heavy trailers. However, that capability is traded for an exceptionally smooth ride and better safety ratings.

Compare the Explorer to the Acadia and Highlander »

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